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Rick Rubins Amazing Weight Loss Overshadowed By His Weak Training Regiment

Read an interesting article recently in Mens Journal regarding Rick Rubin and his dramatic weight loss. He too was stuck in the myth that being vegan is super healthy and the best way to live. The problem with this line of thought is, like he indicated, it is one long chase to get the amount of protein necessary to thrive and requires copious amounts of time preparing food, which is true for going raw or being a vegetarian. We get into pitfalls regarding diets without meat elsewhere and will tackle it in future articles.

While I don’t have any problem with people choosing to follow a meal plan that suits them it is invariably easier, both to prepare and sustain oneself, following a diet more akin to our ancestors consisting of animal protein alongside fruits and vegetables. Yes, you can live on plant based diets and many of my clients do. It just requires a bit more attention to the foods you consume and most times supplementation to reach optimal levels of health.

The article is interesting and worth a read because it is not simply about Ricks eating habits but also his exercise habits, which are suited to someone simply trying to lose weight and gain some athleticism but leaves much to be desired. True its different but thats not always necessary or even best. If you are trying to build muscle and want a rounded physique you are going to have to pick up the iron plain and simple. Beyond that most people simply want to be able to lift their groceries and grandchildren without crippling themselves and Ricks regiment is not setting him up for that as we will learn.  

Even though Rick Rubins trainer is the famed Laird Hamilton, whom I greatly respect, I do take a few issues with some of his current eating and training practices. First he favors protein shakes. He apparently is having close to seven a day. While this isn’t going to kill you it is going to cause problems for those attempting a social life. Going to lunch with a friend and watching them eat chicken piccata while you slowly sip on your 12 ounce protein shake is ridiculous. Its awkward and I don’t care what anyone says; its not as satisfying as real food. Sure, its good in a jam or if you want to squeeze in some extra protein for the day but its not practical.

Secondly, these protein powders are processed foods. Its not a McDonalds cheeseburger and these days the protein quality is relatively high but its still highly processed and there have been issues with protein powders testing very high in heavy metals. I’m talking serious metals here. In a Consumer Reports test on 15 popular protein powders all of the drinks had “at least one sample with arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, heavy metals.” Many bodybuilding aficionados will eschew this topic but I consider this a serious issue with my clients because it does them no good to get into great shape only to increase the load of toxic metals in their body. These heavy metals will hamper health and lead to a deterioration of all their hard won gains in the future. Of course you can find pharmaceutical grade powders that will be of higher quality, which are used in clinical settings and will provide you with protein without concern for your health such as designs for health or Xymogen but these powders will not be in the normal persons budget to eat seven times a day. The weird thing is Rick eats organic foods but will suck down synthetic shakes. I can’t vouch for the exact brand he uses but I want to make others aware of the dangers since most of my clients will run out and buy the cheapest thing on the shelf.

I will also disagree with some of his training practices. While it is true that monotony leads to boredom and will cause many trainees to quit it is also necessary to achieve results. I don’t see Rick with a barrel chest and rippling six pack after all. He may be able to balance on a stupid ball while curling ten pounds and staring in the mirror but who cares? If you want to get ripped and get it right the first time around you have to follow some form of routine that consists of the same lifts over time. The silly notion of “confuse your muscles” may carry over into sport specific training but not for building lean muscle. The “confusion” for the muscle comes from increasing the weights, reps, sets not from switching up the workout every other day. The only way you can judge progress and show results is by following a plan and recording your efforts. Lifting 100 pounds one week and then guessing what to lift next week does not show progression or results, it simply equates to wasted time. Only after mastering the “basics” consisting of chin ups, bench press, dead lifts, squats, presses and rows should you be fooling around with sport specific training unless your goals are endurance or basic fitness. If you want to be shredded and functionally fit you have to have a plan. These basic lifts are the gold standard for any professional athlete and the same professionals always return to the basics at some point in time no matter how much sport specific training they do.

I will admit changing it up and working balance along with strength will show improved sport specific results but it won’t make you look good naked. I don’t care how many golf balls you stand on while juggling ping pong balls and doing squats on a BOSU ball, you won’t look like Wolverine until you lift heavy and correctly with the fundamental lifts. Hamilton can get as many workout routines from his dreams as he likes but I guarantee he is in the weight room as least once in awhile and when he isn’t he is on his land in Hawaii moving the earth with movements equivalent to the fundamental lifts, fact. So while Rick is probably in the best shape of his life he isn’t putting on the lean muscle that science dictates is necessary for longevity.

The real problem I have not starting with the fundamental lifts I mentioned does not have anything to do with building lean muscle mass but with making the body strong to avoid injury. I have great concern for building strength on top of dysfunction. Ricks story is telling as at the end of the article the writer informs us that Rick "threw his back out" exercising. This could be anything from a strain to a ruptured disc, we didn't get details. This may not be a big deal to Rick who can recuperate in his own time and take it easy but for those who don't have his lifestyle being down and out for six to twelve weeks depending on the injury is devastating. This not only compromises your life on a day to day basis but sets you back to zero with your training goals. A properly conditioned client who has mastered the basic lifts will have a base of strength on which to build and will be much less prone to injury. I'm glad this was mentioned in the article because it is a common pitfall for those beginning training or working with trainers who don't start with these fundamentals. The reader, seeing what Rick has done might just go out and start throwing around 100 pound tires assuming this will get him fit and subsequently throw his back out as well. If you are working with someone who tells you that the fundamentals I have mentioned are not necessary for your training goals you should run the other way because you are most likely headed toward a future injury, famous trainer or not.

I applaud Rick Rubin for coming around and getting his life back but I don’t know if I agree with all of his current regiments. I would recommend whole foods; getting protein from animal sources like poultry, beef and eggs because these provide an abundance of fresh vitamins, minerals and fats that no protein powder can provide as well as a satiety that won’t require you to eat seven times a day. You also won’t have to look like an idiot at dinner drinking your shake while your friends eat a steak. I would also recommend he at least complete 8-12 weeks of a training program consisting of the basic lifts to build lean muscle and then fool around with the balancing act. Unless he is training for the circus his work out regiment is not doing much beyond getting his heart rate up.

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